Friday, April 12, 2019

The Fish Are Always With Us......So Spice Them Up Kerala Style!

I always knew I was in a mixed marriage. We were married by both a priest and a rabbi in two separate ceremonies. I've been vegetarian, and even vegan off and on for years. I cooked meat for Alan, but now he's changed it up. I am now living with a piscetarian. Last year Alan changed his eating habits and has now come over to eating more like me. He's getting a lot of vegan and vegetarian meals, his butter has been swapped out for olive oil, and there's almond milk in his latte instead of the regular whole milk. Lots of healthy changes and the biggest for him has been fish.
   I grew up going to Catholic school and eating fish on Fridays. Fish was not a big part of his life, unless you count the sturgeon at Barney Greengrass and even for me, my mother practiced what I like to call Brutalist Cuisine. Fish was cooked into carbon covered with breading, cakes came out raw molten in the middle. The oven was never preheated, one just turned it on shoved the food in and hoped for the best. Directions and recipes? Those are for suckers. Thoughts and prayers was what we used. None of this was accidental, this was deliberate. This was how things were cooked at Fran's house. Did I mention she didn't like to cook? A lot of it was based on the fact that she never thought she would ever have to cook, but hey, she married the immigrant's son her family didn't like, so the money-train pulled out of the station and she got behind the stove.
   My moms fish skills even gave me fish trauma. It took quite a while to learn that fish could actually be fantastic if cooked correctly, and when I started cooking Indian food nearly 30 years ago, I discovered Indian cuisine has lots of amazing fish recipes from all parts of the subcontinent. Some of the best come from Kerala and since Alan was no longer demanding meat every day, but was open to the idea of fish in his diet, I got to work introducing him to some great Indian fish dishes.
   It's one thing to cook on a weekend with time aplenty, but I cook every day in the middle of a writing schedule, so what I cook on weekdays has to be relatively quick and easy. Our main meal is lunch at midday, Alan has an early dinner of the left-overs, or I cook something simple for him. I eat a few vegetables and then we basically fast for about 12 to 15 hours until the next morning. So a good hearty lunch is important. Fast, healthy, filling. That's the name of the game, which is why I love this recipe.

Spicy Kerala Baked Fish

Here's What You Need:

4 fillets of fish. I used cod for this recipe
2 large shallots
1 Tbs Kashmiri chili
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Coriander powder
 A few good grinds of black pepper
2 tsp of shallot/ginger paste
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp  coconut, oilive or other vegetable oil.
1 tsp  chopped curry leaves
salt to taste.

Here's What To Do:

Pat the cod fillets dry with a paper towel, and place them on a plate.

 Put the ginger and shallot into a grinder or food processor...

...and grind to a paste.

Measure out 2 tsp, and store the rest for another use.

Now  place the 2 tsp back into the grinder and add everything else listed above.

When it's all ground together, rub it on the fish fillets.

Coat the fish on both sides.

Pop the fish into the fridge for 1/2 to 1 hour to marinate.
Meanwhile, preheat the over to 400 degrees.
Take a baking sheet, cover it with foil and brush it with oil.
 When you're ready to cook, place the fish fillets on the baking sheet, spaced an inch apart and bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, then turn the fish fillets over and  bake for another 15 minutes.

I served this with Cashew Rice and an Indian creamed spinach.

   Spicy hot, slightly crispy, lying on a bed of  rice studded with cashews, and sultana raisins, it hit the spot taste-wise and time-wise, and the leftovers reheated up easily for Alan's dinner that night. He loved it and it's going in my regular rotation. I think he'd have started eating fish a long time ago if he'd had recipes like this, as it's a great dish for the fish-curious.
   Next week we're starting our planting for this year's vegetable crop. I've missed the ability to get most of our groceries out of the back yard. We've been hit with the atmospheric river so many times this winter that things are just bursting into bloom, so I'm looking forward to bumper crops in everything. Coming up next what the garden brings me. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Kerala Fish Curry, Quick and Spicy And Great For Chilly Days And Nights

   For the last month pr so we've have the Atmospheric River pissing on us up here in Sonoma it seems, 24/7. The state really needs the water, the Sierra needs the snow pack.  After drought years, the aquafer has to be restored and all the water we're getting both as snow and rain are going a long way toward helping. Both ends of the California have been weather-whacked, but it seems like most of it has been focused in the north lately. When the atmospheric river parked itself over our town last week, the gentle little creek that is across the road turned into this:

Of course that was mild compared to what happened  at the Russian River.

So, we're grateful things stayed manageable here in Sonoma. The cold temps however demand something warm in the belly, and nothing warms one up like a good curry, especially a spicy one from Kerala. Now this curry requires Kokum, which I usually have on hand.  However I was fresh out, and so used tamarind as a substitute. 

Kerala Fish Curry


Here's What You Need:

1/2 Pound of fish cut up into pieces. You want a meaty fish. I used some cod and also tossed in some fresh prawns and scallops for good measure.

1 Small onion halved then cut into thin half moon slices
8 Thinly sliced shallots
1 Tbs Crushed fresh ginger
2 Serrano chilies slit lengthwise
1 Tbs Kashmiri Chili powder
1 Tbs Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Turmeric
3 or 4 Fenugreek seeds
2 tsps Tamarind paste
2 Cups of full fat coconut milk
1 cup of light coconut milk
Salt to taste
Curry leaves (optional)

Here's What To Do:

Heat  about 2 Tbs of coconut or other vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhi.
When the oil is hot, toss in the crushed ginger and saute it.
Add the onion, and Serrano chili. Stir everything around.
When the onion starts to get translucent and a bit brown, add in the coriander, fenugreek, turmeric and Kashmiri chili.
Turn the heat down low and cook the spices for a minute or two.
Add the tamarind paste and salt to taste.
Add 1 cup of light coconut milk and 1 cup of full fat coconut milk to the pan. bring it to a boil.
When the coconut milk is boiling, turn the heat way down and add the pieces of fish.
Cook until the fish is cooked through. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the pieces of fish you've used.
When the fish has cooked through, add 1 cup of full fat coconut milk.
Stir everything around and let cook on a low flame for another 5 minutes.
Take it off the heat and serve it up.

This can be made ahead, and like almost all Indian dishes tastes better on the day after. So, if you're planning on a dinner party, this is one dish that can easily be made a day ahead.

I served this up with some homemade roti

This fish curry cooks up very quickly, and even though one can make it ahead and serve it the next day for an even better marriage of flavors, we just polished it off for lunch. It's definitely going on the rotation at our house.

Coming up next, an Italian dish of fish, olives, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts that's good enough for company but also works as an easy lunch or dinner. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A One Skillet Dish With Indian Spices: Cod and Chickpea Curry

   I regularly get What You Should Be Cooking sort of notifications from the New York Times. In the past I've had a recipe or two featured and so I'm always looking for interesting  dishes that I can get on the table in a hurry during the work week.  The last thing I want to think about in the middle of my writing is some long-assed complicated dish to throw to the starving masses at our house. So last week when I saw  a piece on a fish dish made with chickpeas and I thought ah ha!  this fits the bill perfectly, especially once I read the comments.
   A note on reading comments. I find them very helpful. Most of the comments on the dish were positive  but the ones that weren't, complained that the recipe as written was merely a template and lacked enough flavor for some people. Now we like flavor around here. After cooking Indian food for the last 29 years, we've gotta have our spices or no one's happy. So I took the advice of the folks who commented and decided to use the recipe merely as my template for a fish curry. I started with the basics of fish, chickpeas and the dreaded kale and  expanded out into the world of Indian spices from there. What I got was a dish that was easy to fix and also delicious. It was a great dish for midweek tastebud boredom without a lot of effort.

Cod and Chickpea Curry 

Here's What You Need:

1 lb of cod or other fish cut into fillets
1 can of chickpeas rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes...(if it was the correct season I'd have used fresh)
3/4 cup of thinly sliced shallots
1 bunch of dino kale, washed dried and cut into strips
salt to taste

1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
2 Tbs coconut oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup chopped pistachios (for garnish)

Here's What To Do:

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot add in the mustard and cumin seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop and the cumin seeds turn fragrant, add in the thinly sliced shallots.
Saute the shallots until they start to darken then add in the ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric.
Stir the spices around until they turn fragrant. This takes just a minute or two.
Now add in the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste .
Bring the tomatoes to a boil then turn the heat down quickly to low and cook the tomatoes at a low simmer until they begin to soften, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon.
When the tomatoes have softened, add in the rinsed and drained chickpeas, and the sliced kale.

Stir everything together and then simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the kale has completely softened.

Rub a bit of kashmiri chili on the raw fish for seasoning. I used my homemade kashmiri  spice blend.
Place the seasoned fish pieces into the  tomato, kale, chickpea mixture. Nestle them in well.

Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat waaaaay down to the lowest setting and cook until the fish  is cooked though and flakes easily. This takes about 10 minutes, and bingo , you're done.
Place the tomato, kale, and chickpea mixture in a bowl  and place the cooked fish on top of it. Top with some of the sauce, then sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and chopped pistachios.

This was a big hit on a cold and rainy Sonoma day with snow on the foothills, and is now going into meal rotation at our house. Simple, cheap, and above all, fast to fix on a work day. This is an Indian dish that can easily be accompanied and dressed up for a fancy company dinner.
   Coming up next, a Kerala fish curry spicy and tasty. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori     

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Break Out The Shrooms. ...No, Not Those.The Meatless Ragu That's a Great Start To A New Year.

   This all started while making a vegetarian chili. I'd seen a great recipe for a quick veg chili in the New York Times and thought that would be perfect for a quick weekday workday lunch or dinner. I was planning on grinding and using the mushrooms for a chili con carne minus the carne sort of thing but I got so involved making a cornbread drop biscuit topping for the chili and I forgot. Yes, I forgot and then it was oh damn!!!!! I opened the fridge door and there were mushrooms staring at me. That's when I thought I'd use them the next day in a different recipe which is exactly what I did.

Here's What You Need:

1 box of pasta (any shape)
2 16 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
Fresh chopped basil
1/2 tsp of dried oregano  or fresh if you have it.
1/4 cup of white wine
1 lb of crimini mushrooms
1 onion
A pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbs tomato paste
3 Tbs of olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese to taste

Here's What To Do:

Put a pot of lightly salted water on to boil for the pasta.
Place the crimini mushrooms in a food processor a bit at a time and pulse them until they resemble  coarse hamburger texture.
Finely chop the onion.
In a large skillet heat the olive oil
When the oil is hot add in the chopped onion and a pinch of red pepper and some chopped basil and the oregano.
When the onion is translucent  and everything is aromatic, add in you chopped mushroom "hamburger."
Saute it lightly until it darkens a bit.
Now add in the chopped tomatoes and the white wine.
Raise the heat till the tomato mixture starts to simmer, and then let it cook like that for about 20 minutes, until the chopped tomatoes start to break down, and the wine starts to evaporate.

When the sauce has thickened, add in your tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste.
Put your pasta into the water you have boiled and cook it until it's al dente.
When the pasta has cooked, drain it and save the pasta cooking water.
Put the pasta into the mushroom ragu and add in 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Stir everything together and cook until the water has absorbed.
Dish it up and top with some grated cheese.

Meanwhile on the doggo front we are settling in with our new adoptee, Tyrion. Since he is 3 years old and used to that name we're not going to change it. Also, we're #GOT fans so....what can I say. He's definitely making himself at home.

He is not supposed to be on that blanket btw but try telling him that.
he sleeps like a typical Husky.

We bought him another bed for the family room downstairs.

...but he still likes that couch.

So between writing and getting used to the new family member there haven't been as many recipes published. I've been cooking, just not publishing and so now that things are settling down look for more recipes, and follow along on Twitter @kathygori 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

It's Not All About The Spiced Latte! Tuscan Pumpkin Mushroom Pasta And It's Pumpkin Spice Free.

   I do love pumpkin, always have, always will. However, I draw the line at all the pumpkin spiced junk that seems to find its' way to the store shelves and our tables during this season. I do confess that a month ago I bought a bag of Pumpkin Spiced Popcorn, which was the culinary equivalent of sticking a fork into an electrical socket just to see what happens. I might as well have taken a toaster into the tub with me. The store didn't even comment when I brought it back. My guess is they have a lot of practice.
   Savory pumpkin  though, which is often found in Indian and Italian cuisine, is another matter all together. That stuff is delicious! Which is why I served it at a dinner party last night for some gluten free vegetarian friends. This dish is extremely easy to make and cooks up in no time. Seriously. Take it from someone who spends days prepping an Indian feast, this is fast... and cheap. If you've got a box of pasta and a can of pumpkin  you can do this.

Pumpkin Pasta With Mushrooms

Here's What You Need

1 1/2 pounds of pasta
2  shallots finely minced
8 Tbs of pumpkin puree
1/2 pound King Oyster Mushrooms...or actually any mushroom.

10 Tbs of butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
1 cup of soft ricotta  (I make my own get the recipe here)

 One pomegranate ( learn how to prep one here )

Here's What To Do:


 Thinly slice the mushrooms and set them aside, and thinly slice the sage leaves.

 In a skillet melt 10 tbs of butter add in the thinly sliced shallots.

Saute until they are translucent.
Now add in the thinly sliced sage leaves and oyster mushrooms.

Saute until the mushrooms are soft.
Add in 10 Tbs of plain pumpkin puree.

Mix it with the melted butter until you have a smooth pumpkin butter.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.
When the pasta is done drain it, saving part of the pasta cooking water.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet of sauce.
Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Reheat the sauce until it coats the pasta and is nice and creamy.

To serve, place the pasta in individual bowls.
Top with a dollop of soft ricotta, a scattering of pomegranate arils  and some chopped pistachios.

This is a simple yet elegant way to use canned pumpkin, no weird pumpkin spices involved. It's one of my favorite ways to serve pasta, especially as a company entree.

Okay, so that's the recipe that google ate. More to come as I am back in the kitchen cooking and writing again now that we have a new adopted family member.

Coming up next, more winter delights. Follow along on Twitter  @kathygori

Monday, January 7, 2019


Evidently, the google fairy ate the entire recipe I thought had been published to the blog about Tuscan Pumpkin Pasta...soooo I'm re-doing it and it will be up in the next day or so. I have NO IDEA what happened there!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cecina, aka The Little Black Dress of Appetizers

   Growing up in a working class Italian American household, I learned a LOT about not wasting stuff and making ends meet...usually right around the Thursday payday. Boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese, peppers stuffed with whatever was left in the fridge, Jumbo bags of hot dogs from Food For Less, and waffles made with 7 up or sometimes Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer were the norm.

   I started cooking young, of out of self-defense. My mother was from a different background than my father and was not brought up to do housework, so shit got real interesting when she turned her hand to cooking.  She never seemed to realize that preheating the oven was something one had to do to cook food properly, and so we ate half-cooked meats, charred on the outside (because "on" is "on" and who the hell pays attention to those pesky oven dials and what they're saying). She baked lava cakes before their time simply because boxed cake mix was put into the oven and then the oven turned on. It's a wonder we weren't all dead from salmonella.
   My dad's immigrant grandparents on the other hand, were excellent cooks. My mom's parents liked going to the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel on holidays if dad's immigrant side of the family was going to be attending. I guess they wanted to  make sure EVERYONE was speaking English around the holiday turkey. Considering this picture of those days, I guess they got their wish.

   My dad's family was fun. There were chicken feet boiling in a big pot on their stove (still wood burning) in their old, old, house. There were homemade ravioli, and broddo one could use as a mirror it was so clear. There were pigs feet and other startlements to my mothers old school American relatives when they showed up, and not many of dad's people spoke much English. I thought if I spoke English to them LOUDLY and slowly they'd understand me. I must have been a real pain in the ass to them.
   Mom's side were Republicans, dad's were Democrats and much fighting ensued. One fight ended with the removal of our furniture by my mom's dad who had given them the house...and I guess the furniture too evidently. Anyway, the upshot of all of this is I learned to cook, and I learned to be thrifty.  Which brings me to Torta de Ceci, that wedge shaped thing in the picture at the top of this page.

   Torta  de Ceci  aka Cecina belongs to what is called Cucina Povera, The Kitchen of the Poor. It's very, very easy to fix, costs nearly nothing, and one can dress it up or down, add or subtract. It's a basic, and a great dish to serve as an appetizer to a group.  All one needs for Cecina is a 10 inch cast iron pan and a bag of garbanzo flour. I like serving it on Holidays before my Italian style Thanksgiving, and it's perfect it if your group includes vegans, vegetarians, or anyone who is gluten free. Here's how to fix it.


Here's What You Need:

3.5 oz garbanzo flour
5 Tbs olive oil
300 ml water
salt and pepper to taste

Here's What To Do:

Mix the garbanzo flour and the water in a bowl.
Blend it together well and then cover the bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Coat a 10 inch cast iron skillet  with 3 Tbs of olive oil.
Put the olive oil coated skillet into a cold oven  (too bad mom never tried this one she'd have been a natural) and turn it on to 450 degrees.
When the oven is at 450 take the skillet out of the oven.
Pour the cecina bater into the hot hot skillet, drizzle 2 Tbs of olive oil over the batter then swirl it a bit with a spoon.
Put the skillet back into the 450 degree oven for 15  minutes.
After 15 minutes open the oven and move the skillet to the top rack and raise the heat to 500 degrees. Broil for about 5 minutes or so. This can cook really fast depending on ones oven so do keep and eye on it. When it starts to turn  golden and crusty take it out.

The finished Cecina should  be something firm enough to cut into slices.
Run a silicone spatula around  the edges and underneath the Cecina to loosen it.
Now, place a plate on top of the cast iron pan and turn it over so that the Cecina unmolds. The bottom is now the top! 

Slice it into  wedges. You can serve this topped with ricotta and pea shoots, olive tapenade,  caponata, proscuitto. Plain or fancy, you name it. Cecina is only  limited by your imagination and whatever your guests feel like eating.

So there it is. A simple, easy, warming treat for the holidays. Coming up next, more holiday dishes and how I became a restaurant consulting chef for gluten free dining.


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